I’m sure I will have much more to say after this weekend, but I did want to make note of a few things before the big matches start.
The first is that, as predicted, South Korea beat Uzbekistan in the third place match of the 2011 Asian Cup (3-2). Why these tournaments have a third place match is beyond me. Even though the third place match is usually of higher quality than the final (see: 2010 World Cup), it still seems excessively cruel to the two losing semifinalists. Besides which, the fans don’t care. Even the fans of the competing teams.
The Neymar Tournament has now concluded all first round play. To the surprise of no one, Brazil and Argentina each topped their groups. Rounding out the final group are (from Group A) Chile and Uruguay and (from Group B) Ecuador and Colombia. Colombia will automatically go to be at the World Youth Cup because it is hosting that tournament, but the top 4 who are not Colombia will also get spots. Which means there will be only one real loser from the group. The top two teams of the final group will qualify for the 2012 Olympics. If Brazil does not get one of those top two spots, there will be hell to pay. Brazil has not won the Olympics yet, and it desperately wants to. Additionally, because Brazil is hosting the 2014 World Cup, it won’t compete in qualifying, which will be a huge disadvantage. The Olympics will at least provide some competition, even if it is only for (mostly) players under 23.
Alex Morgan, an up and coming star of the USWNT, got a very nice write-up on Sports Illustrated’s website. Morgan is expected to be the next Mia Hamm/Abby Wambach. I would advise you to watch the goal that SI linked to in the article; it is quite a beauty. Come the new WPS season, Morgan will be a player on the Western New York Flash, i.e. Marta’s latest team. I can’t decide if this is a good thing for Morgan or not–she will be learning from the best, but she will be heavily overshadowed. I think the Flash may be the most interesting team to watch in the new WPS season. I predict they will either run away with the title or flame out spectacularly.
Finally, I want to comment on the Sky Sports debacle. Andy Gray and Richard Keys are idiots; I have no sympathy for them. Essentially they have ruined a woman’s career. Sian Massey will never be able to officiate a match again without tremendous scrutiny, and every time that she makes a mistake (inevitable in her line of business), it will be a black mark against her and all women. What’s worse, is that Gray and Keys have no real remorse, just self-pity.
Just because Gray and Keys don’t understand the offside rule is no reason to take it out on the officials. The sexism and misogyny that they have shown at Sky is appalling, beyond the comments about Massey. Frankly, I’m glad Karren Brady refused to take Keys’s call. He should not be allowed to think he was absolved because he offered an insincere apology. This is long overdue. Frankly, both of them should have been fired long ago for having no idea what they are talking about–Gray’s recent comments about Messi and Barcelona (But can they go to Stoke or Blackburn on a Tuesday night? Of course they can, you moron! And Barcelona would do far better at Stoke or Blackburn than Stoke or Blackburn would do at the Camp Nou.) alone are worth the sack.
It’s very telling that no one, and I mean no one came to their defense. They have clearly made too many enemies at Sky, and they deserve to go. It’s only a shame that they will be able to carry on their filth with (of course) Al Jazeera if The Mirror is to be believed–a dubious prospect, I admit. It’s a reminder to us American fans. Although we have a dearth of good football announcers, it could be worse.